Dec 9, 2008

Full -> Pure -> Immaculate

Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

I'll readily admit that the Marian doctrines are probably the largest mental hurdles for my developing Catholic faith. But the more I experience them, the more I find that the difficulties were largely of my own making. Last night's Mass centered on her Immaculate Conception - the 3rd of the 4 Marian Dogmas.

From the inside, it's hard to have any problem with what was revered last night. I think Deacon Yarbrough used a great metaphor - Mary, in her Immaculate Conception, was a blank slate, an empty cup; the only creature with the proper capacity to receive Christ's full merit. She was purposefully made by God as a perfect creature so that he could use her to send His Son to redeem all of His creation.

It made me think of my grandmother. I've jokingly referred to her as St. Daphne, but I now seriously and sincerely believe that she is indeed the person closest to Mary whom I will ever meet in this life; thinking about Daphne's devotion to God is overwhelming. I can't even imagine the kind of Godly life Mary must have lived to even surpass Daphne.

After all was said and done, I left with, surprisingly for me, a deeper praise for God's grace and Christ's merit, and an appreciation of how completely they were expressed and carried by the Holy Mother.

My grandmother constantly prays for me and for my entire family. So I have absolutely no more mental hurdles to clear in asking Mary to pray for us too.


Kristi said...

There was a tremendous burden for Mary to carry. She would have been very young, and therfore very mature for her age to have handled her situation with such grace. What an honor to carry the messiah, yet what a price to pay!

Saint said...

The entire expression of Catholic faith on Mary can be summed up in two passages in the Bible:

The Magnificat (Luke chapter 1 I believe, when the Archangel Gabriel is telling her her role) and the end of John, with Jesus on the cross and Him saying, "Behold, your mother." He was talking to everyone then. When I had my doubts, I read that part from Luke and I was just floored, not quite understanding what other people are reading when they read that.

Have you seen the Nativity? I think it sums her up great. Great movie for this time of year.

luke said...

I meant to write more in the post about the Full-to-Pure-to-Immaculate logic ...

Catholics read a lot into Luke's account of Gabriel's words, "Hail, full of grace." The basic exegesis is: fullness of something implies purity of it; purity means un-mixed and free from adulterants; when spoken of grace, it's therefore interpreted as being totally free from any hindrance of grace - i.e., immaculate.

Combined with other theologies on the nature of God and His desires for purity in his incarnate expressions, it's very compelling that He would preserve Mary from any and all blemishes of sin from the very moment her life began - i.e., at conception.

Jeff said...

Yeah, I'm okay with my Catholic brothers and sisters believing in Mary's perfection. But for me, it screws with my head in terms of my acceptance God's grace. Do I have to be perfect first to be imputed with His grace?

For me, a mere mortal Mary gives me hope that I can "carry" Christ in an imperfect vessel albeit one filled with imputed grace.

And it doesn't diminish Mary's faith or sacrifice. In fact, what kind of faith does a flawless human need? I'm perhaps too simple. I only have room for one spotless One.

As for me, I am hopelessly flawed. I'm probably one of those vessels used for "ignoble purposes." (2 Tim. 2:20) Paul may have had me in mind when he made reference to such household items. For example, I think I rank along side the chamber pot. Useful but stinky most of the time.

Saint said...

Of course, you, like the rest of us, are worthless, incomplete "ignoble vessels", until we are made whole by Christ. Nobody makes the claim that Mary deserved God's Grace, but rather, that God had a plan for her from the very beginning. You must remember that Christ's bloodline was just as important as His message, and she was the sum of that bloodline. She was made perfect, she didn't earn perfection. That is why, in the "Hail Mary" prayer, we say, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you."

And of course, on the grand scheme of things, she served a greater purpose than the rest of us, which is why she was immaculately conceived. She was the Mother of God, the proclaimed Queen of Heaven. Those are pretty big shoes to fill, and no one can do that without being full of grace (which is what comes from God) in every conceivable way.

Jeremy Fincher said...

"Catholics read a lot into Luke's account of Gabriel's words, "Hail, full of grace." The basic exegesis is..."

Remember that "full of grace" is the English translation from the Vulgate's plenia gratia. That's not an incorrect translation, but it doesn't have quite the impact of the Greek (the Greek for "full of grace," pleres charitos, is used of Stephen as well in the New Testament). What Gabriel is actually recorded saying is "Hail, kecharitomene," which uses the Greek word for "gracing" someone in the perfect tense: the tense which indicates that an action completed in the past has ongoing effects in the present. A strictly literal (but not literary) translation would be, "Hail, woman in whom the act of giving grace has been completed!" Catholics (and Orthodox[1]) understand the full meaning of those words to be that the giving of grace to Mary had been completed, with the resulting effect that she was immaculate. In someone to whom the giving of grace had been completed (such as us, by the time we enter heaven), sin is completely excluded.

[1] The Orthodox, even if they reject the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (that rejection being more a modern backlash against Catholicism than something rooted in history and tradition), still accept that Mary by the time Christ was conceived had been made perfect and spotless. This belief is reflected in both St. John Crysostom's and St. Basil's divine liturgies.

Monk-in-Training said...

This is one of the places I divide with my Roman brethren.

It does speak to me as my dear friend Jeff says that I, as an imperfect vessel can bear the Incarnation along with her. Her normal human-ness is a huge blessing for me, along with the human-ness of Joesph and all the Apostles. I feel that if they were not fully flawed humans (believe me, i got flaws)how can I aspire to be like Jesus, and like them?

Yes, the Holy Mother is full of God's Grace, but in my opinion, so are we all.

luke said...

My subsequent post sorta hit some of those ideas too ...

Mary's humanity inspires me too - as a perfection of our humanity. We aspire to be like Jesus, yes, but it's sometimes harder, for me, to identify with Jesus' humanity because I cannot ignore His divinity.

In Mary I find a fellow human who was graced to live the fully perfect life we're all meant to live.

I think we all aspire to receive God's grace, but I take more comfort in knowing it's fully completed in Mary.